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Flashback: on 1946’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Have you revisited this Holiday classic recently? Do you realize how incredibly dark it turns? A man contemplating suicide, because of a financial mistake that could send him to jail? But oh, that revelatory finale! And the perfect build-up before Clarence (an incredible Henry Travers), the fledgling angel, arrives. Has James Stewart ever been more charming? Was Donna Reed ever more beautiful? Outside of Ebenezer Scrooge, was there ever a more dastardly Christmas villain then Mr. Potter (the dripping with malice, Lionel Barrymore)? Two scenes in “It’s a Wonderful Life” consistently bring me to tears. The first is when young George Bailey stops Mr. Gower (H.B. Warner) the druggist, from accidentally sending poison to a family, when he intended to deliver medicine (the scene does involve a horribly abusive incident, that would never be deemed acceptable today…I wonder how it played in 1946?). The next is during the final scene, when brother Harry (Todd Karns) labels George “the richest man in town”. Full waterworks…every time. Is it Frank Capra’s greatest achievement? Apologies to 1934’s glorious “It Happened One Night”, perhaps it is. “It’s a Wonderful Life” didn’t garner big box office. And it was Stewart’s first film after a five-year hiatus, during which he served the armed forces during WWII. But over the years, the movie has become recognized as a yuletide classic. Bedford Falls. Who doesn’t want to live there? Happy New Year everyone! And I wish you all a “wonderful life”!

Grade:  A


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